Sep 23, 2022 - Business

Presidents Cup proves Charlotte is golf country

U.S. teammates Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele. Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios

U.S. teammates Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele. Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios

Johnny Harris stands near the first tee box at the Presidents Cup a few hours before the opening ceremony, and smiles when I ask him about Charlotte’s stamp on the event capturing the attention of the golf world.

Why? Because this one is different.

“I think what happened [is] the PGA Championship [in 2017] sorta cracked the wall that was there, where golf events out here had been viewed as maybe more Quail Hollow than Charlotte’s events,” Harris, the president of Quail Hollow Club and a prominent Charlotte developer, told Axios.

Why it matters: The second you step onto the Quail Hollow course, the event feels quintessentially Charlotte. That’s not just because there are decorative signs for concessions reading NoDa and South End. Instead of it feeling like, “this is another golf event in Charlotte” it’s, “this is a Charlotte event, and golf is the main course.”

  • Of note: Charlotte became the first place in the Southeast to host the Presidents Cup.
Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios
Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios

Context: Quail Hollow Club’s history of hosting golf tournaments dates back to 1969 with the Kemper Open, which ran until 1979 here. Then came the World Seniors Invitational from 1980-1989, followed by the Wells Fargo Championship (then called the Wachovia Championship) starting in 2003, but it did not take place here this year in preparation for the Presidents Cup. The PGA Championship was also here in 2017 and will return in 2025.

  • Harris added events at Quail Hollow Club have become not just regional or national; they capture international attention.
  • “That’s been a hugely positive aspect of everything we’ve ever done,” he said.

By the numbers: The economic impact from the Presidents Cup will be more than $175 million for the region, per N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper’s office.

Events like this also attract big names, whether it was Justin Bieber at the PGA Championship in 2017 or former North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams in 2022. President Joe Biden is the Presidents Cup honorary chairman, a role held by several other presidents, some of whom may make their way to Charlotte this week.

  • Cooper said former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton will be here, and maybe President Biden.

The big picture: Charlotte is not just banks and beer; it’s golf country.

Zoom out: North Carolina has 520 golf courses, and golf is a big business for the state, generating $2.3 billion in direct spending in North Carolina, per Cooper’s office. (These figures are from a 2017 study by the Carolinas Golf Course Superintendents Association when the sport saw a decline in activity).  

  • Now the sport is booming, thanks in part to the pandemic forcing everyone outside, as Axios’ Zachery Eanes and Michael Graff reported
  • Plus the World Golf Hall of Fame will move to Pinehurst, which will also host the U.S. Open in 2024. The move includes a $25 million investment and bringing 50 full time US Golf Association staff there.

What’s next: All that’s left is for Charlotte to host the Ryder Cup, which runs every other year, and it’s the U.S. against Europe. Like the Presidents Cup, it would be a coveted event for Charlotte to host. 

  • “It’s like Dad always said, ‘when you get your time at bat, you better swing,'” said Johno Harris, 2022 Presidents Cup Tournament Chairman and son of Johnny Harris. “So if we ever have had the opportunity to step up at bat, we’ll see where it goes.” 

Go deeper: A guide to the 2022 Presidents Cup in Charlotte

Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios

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